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Chemistry in Food Industry

Updated on April 21, 2011

Chemistry in Food Industry

Has anyone told you that sometimes you are eating chemicals? They are probably right! When eating things I think you need to be careful because we don't know if any of these chemicals are good. People tell us things are harmful and other people tell us that it is not harmful to us. We need to decide for ourselves what chemicals are harmful and what is not. Here are five chemicals that are in foods.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is what you use for baking in different foods. When baking soda is mixed with an acid (such as milk, chocolate, vinegar, lemon juice, or large amounts of honey or molasses) it neutralizes the acid component and releases carbon dioxide air bubbles. The formula for baking soda is NaHCO3 (see Appendix A) or sodium hydrogen carbonate, which also can be called sodium bicarbonate. If you look at baking soda with the naked eye it looks like baking soda is a powdery substance. If you put baking soda in a microscope, and you look, baking soda will be tiny white crystals. Baking soda has a few basic qualities that can be related: It has a soft crystalline molecular quality. 2) It has the ability to neutralize acidity. 3) It is a leavening agent. 4) It is able to absorb many odors.


MSG is blamed for almost everything that goes wrong in a Chinese restaurant. MSG is the flavor enhancer for foods in concentrations of about 0.3%. MSG is usually produced through fermentation, a process similar to that used in making beer, vinegar and yoghurt. The formula for MSG is COOH(CH2)2CH(NH2)COONa (see Appendix A) or monosodium glutamate. MSG is a white, crystalline powder. MSG doesn’t affect metabolism. Glutamate from either source is absorbed similarly in the intestine and follows normal metabolic pathways. Use of MSG in food has grown in the last 30 years and is still growing. MSG is found in most soups, salad dressings, processed meats, frozen entrees, ice cream, and frozen yogurt, in some crackers, bread, canned tuna, and very often in "low fat" and "no fat" foods to make up for flavor lost when fat is reduced or eliminated. It can be found in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and dietary supplements. It is found in internal feeding products and in infant formula. It is found in vaccines -- including vaccines used on children. It is found in hospitals where it is hidden in the jello, chicken soup, and some IV solutions given to very sick patients.

Vitamin C

One of the main benefits of vitamin C is its function as an antioxidant. It helps maintain a healthy immune system. Ascorbic acid is absorbed from the intestine. The body uses it in about two hours and then usually out of the blood within three to four hours. Vitamin C is required in diet to prevent scurvy. It is found in citric fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, and green leafy vegetables. The formula for vitamin C is C6H8O6 (see Appendix A) or ascorbic acid. Vitamin C is white crystals or powder with a tart, acid taste. Ascorbic acid is an acid that is found in fruits. Citric acid is another vitamin C that is used in foods and soft drinks as an acidifying agent and an antioxidant. It gives lemons, oranges, and other citrus fruits their distinctive sour taste. Citric acid exists in a variety of fruits and vegetables, but it is most concentrated in lemons and limess, where it can comprise as much as 8% of the dry weight of the fruit. The chemical formula for citric acid is (HOOCCH2)2C(OH)(COOH) or tricarboxylic acid. The physical properties for citric acid are that it has translucent crystals with a strongly acidic taste. Citric acid is mostly found in fruits.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid comes from Salicin, which is the most abundant compound in Salix. People used this Salix in Ancient Egypt. It was used by Greeks and Native American tribes. Salix was used mostly for curing fevers and headaches. This bark was mixed in with tea and was given to the sick people. Salicylic acid is a very versatile substance. It can be used for curing warts and is the primary compound in Aspirin. Salicylic acid is a chemical that can be used in different amounts in foods and dyes, and in wart treatment. It is a colourless crystalline organic carboxylic acid that melts at 159°C.The chemical compound formula for salicylic acid is C7H6O3 or 2-hydroxybenzoic acid (see Appendix A). Salicylic acid is used to very little amounts for a food preservative.


BHT is butylated hydroxotoluene, which is used as a preservative in foods and beverages. The chemical formula for BHT is C6H5CO2H (see Appendix A). The physical properties of BHT are that it is crystalline solid organic acid that melts at 122°C and boils at 249°C. Concerns with BHT come from lab tests showing that it can cause cancer in animals, thus leading to the assumption that it may have the same effect in people. In addition to this there are people who believe that consumption of BHT can cause metabolism problems leading to behavior changes. Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a diet specialist in the 1970’s stated from his studies that BHT could produce hyperactivity in children.

Apendix A


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    • profile image

      Johnk667 2 years ago

      I am so grateful for your blog article.Really thank you! Fantastic. eadgceedefcc

    • inkymama profile image

      inkymama 4 years ago

      Great lens, thanks for sharing!

    • floppypoppygift1 profile image

      floppypoppygift1 5 years ago

      Boo on MSG. I feel sick when I eat it, too. The worst food with MSG for me is Red Beans & Rice mixes. However, Tony Chachere's mix is okay for me-no MSG! Yay!

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 6 years ago from Vermont

      I have no tolerance for additives, preservatives or MSG in foods - they make me quite ill with flu-like/poisoned symptoms. For that reason I cannot eat in many restaurants and I buy organic and don't buy commercially prepared foods unless I read all the labels.